NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 06: Jared Cook #89 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball and is tackled by Kelly Jennings #23 and Carlos Dunlap #96 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game at LP Field on November 6, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Carlos Dunlap is using this wonderful Monday to tell the world that he and the Cincinnati Bengals are ready to make a statement in 2012. Earlier today, I wrote about Dunlap's intentions to compete with fellow defensive end Robert Geathers, crack the starting lineup and hopefully get ten sacks. Now, as reported by Paul Dehner Jr. of CBS Rapid Reports, Dunlap is speaking about the defensive unit as a whole.
The Bengals defense was ranked seventh in the NFL (316.3 yards/game) last season. DE Carlos Dunlap said the goal for 2012 is to crack the top five. "Our goal is to be considered top-five every year and work our way into the playoffs," he said. "The only way to do that is to cut that in half and be top-five."
First, the goal is more than plausible. Even with Dunlap's injury, the defensive line was tremendous in 2011. Role players Jonathan Fanene and Frostee Rucker left for greener pastures (in Rucker's delusional world where Cleveland is a "greener pasture"), but thanks to free agency and a phenomenal draft, those positions are filled. Add to that a healthy, motivated Dunlap and a more experienced Geno Atkins, and the defensive line may be even better in 2012. Also improved will be the secondary, where free agency and the draft were also utilized to acquire much needed talent, namely first round selection Dre Kirkpatrick.
Second, and maybe more importantly, Carlos Dunlap has made is clear that he is devoted to success. Earlier today it was individual success, and now the focus is on the team. Coming out of college, there were plenty of questions as to whether or not he would play up to his talents, be motivated, etc., but judging from the overflow of Dunlap statements today, I would go so far as to say that those questions have been answered. And that answer is a very, very good one for the Cincinnati Bengals.